Vincent of Lérins

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Saint Vincent of Lérins
Died c. 445
Lérins, France
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church[1]
Eastern Orthodox Church[2]
Anglican Communion
Feast 24 May

Saint Vincent of Lérins (died c. 445) (in Latin, Vincentius) was a Gallic author of early Christian writings. His feast day is May 24. Monk and writer. Born to a noble family of Gaul (modern France), he was probably the brother of St. Lupus of Troyes. Vincent initially served as a soldier but gave it up to become a monk on the island of Lerins off the southern French coast near Cannes. He was ordained there and in about 434 authored his famous work the Commonitorium. Written under the pseudonym Peregrinus the Commonitorium offered a guide to orthodox teaching and included his famous maxim, the Vincentian Canon, by which he hoped to be able to differentiate between true and false tradition: quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus credituni est ("what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all"). He believed that the ultimate source of Christian truth was Holy Scripture and that the authority of the Church was to be invoked to guarantee the correct interpretation of Scripture. A proponent of Semi-Pelagianism, he op-posed the Augustinian model of Grace and was probably the recipient of Prosper of Aquitaine's Responsiones ad Capitula Objectionum Vincentianarum.[3]


Vincent was born in Toulouse, Gaul.[4] In his early life he had been engaged in secular pursuits, whether civil or military is not clear, though the term he uses, "secularis militia," might possibly imply the latter. He entered Lérins Abbey on Île Saint-Honorat, where under the pseudonym Peregrinus he wrote Commonitorium, c. 434. About three years after the Council of Ephesus.[5] Vincent defended calling Mary, mother of Jesus, Theotokos ("God-bearer") which opposed the teachings of Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople, which were condemned by the Council of Ephesus.[4] Eucherius of Lyon called him a conspicuously eloquent and knowledgeable holy man.

Gennadius of Massilia wrote that Vincent died during the reign of Roman Emperor Theodosius II in the East and Valentinian III in the West. Therefore, his death must have occurred in or before the year 450. His relics are preserved at Lérins.[6] .

Caesar Baronius included his name in the Roman Martyrology but Louis-Sébastien Le Nain de Tillemont doubted whether there was sufficient reason. He is commemorated on the 24th of May.


Vincent wrote his Commonitory to provide himself, as he stated, with a general rule whereby to distinguish Catholic truth from heresy; and he commits what he has learnt, he added, to writing, that he may have it by him for reference as a commonitory, or remembrancer, to refresh his memory. It is known for Vincent's famous maxim: "Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all."[7](p132)[8](p10) The currently accepted idea that Vincent was a semipelagian is attributed to a 17th-century Protestant theologian, Gerardus Vossius, and developed in the 17th century by Cardinal Henry Noris.[8](xxii) Evidence of Vincent's semipelagianism, according to Reginald Moxon, is Vincent's, "great vehemence against" the doctrines of Augustine of Hippo in Commonitory.[8](xxvii)


Semipelagianism was a doctrine of grace advocated by monks in and around Marseilles in Southern Gaul after 428. It aimed at a compromise between the two extremes of Pelagianism and Augustinism, and was condemned as heresy at the Second Council of Orange in 529 C.E. after more than a century of disputes.[9]

Augustine wrote of prevenient grace, and expanded to a discussion of pre-destination. A number of monastic communities took exception to the latter because it seemed to nullify the value of asceticism practiced under their Rules. John Cassian felt that Augustine's stress on predestination ruled out any need for human cooperation or consent.

Vincent was suspected of semipelagianism but whether he actually held that doctrine is not clear as it is not found in Commonitorium. But it is probable that his sympathies were with those who held it. Considering that the monks of the Lérins Islands, in common with the general body of clergy of Southern Gaul, were Semipelagians, it is not surprising that Vincent was suspected of Semipelagianism. It is also possible that Vincent held to a position closer to the Eastern Orthodox position of today, which they claim to have been virtually universal until the time of Augustine, and which may have been interpreted as semipelagian by Augustine's followers.

Vincent upheld tradition and seemed to have objected to much of Augustine's work as "new" theology. He shared Cassian's reservations about Augustine's views on the role of grace. In Commonitorium he listed theologians and teachers who, in his view, had made significant contributions to the defense and spreading of the Gospel; he omitted Augustine from that list. Some commentators have viewed Cassian and Vincent as "semi-Augustinian" rather than semi-Pelagian.

It is a matter of academic debate whether Vincent is the author of the "Objectiones Vincentianae", a collection of sixteen inferences allegedly deduced from Augustine's writings, which is lost and only known through Prosper of Aquitaine's rejoinder, "Responsiones ad capitula objectionum Vincentianarum". It is dated close to the time of Commonitorium and its animus is very similar to Commonitorium sections 70 and 86 making it possible that both were written by the same author.[5]


  1. ^ May 24. The Roman Martyrology.
  2. ^ Great Synaxaristes: (in Greek) Ὁ Ὅσιος Βικέντιος τῶν Λερίνων. 24 Μαΐου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b "St. Vincent of Lerins", St. Vincent of Lerins Orthodox Church, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
  5. ^ a b  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGhellinck, Joseph de (1912). "St. Vincent of Lérins". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. 15. New York: Robert Appleton. 
  6. ^ Butler, Alban. The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints, Vol.V, by the Rev. Alban Butler, D. & J. Sadlier, & Company, (1864)
  7. ^ Vincent of Lérins (1894). "Wikisource link to The Commonitory of Vincent of Lerins". In Schaff, Philip; Wace, Henry. A select library of the Nicene and post-Nicene fathers of the Christian Church. 2. 11. Translated by Heurtley, Charles A. (American ed.). Buffalo: Christian Literature. Wikisource. 
  8. ^ a b c One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a work now in the public domain: Vincent of Lérins (1915). Moxon, Reginald S., ed. Commonitorium of Vincentius of Lerins. Cambridge patristic texts (in Latin and English). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. OCLC 635499104.  Has good notes.
  9. ^  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainPohle, Joseph (1912). "Semipelagianism". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. 13. New York: Robert Appleton. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Thomas G. Guarino, Vincent of Lerins and the Development of Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.

External links[edit]